Ugwu hates the relief food, and he misses his old kitchen in Nsukka. Olanna is grateful for everything she gets, but Ugwu complains about the bland flour and salty fish. Olanna has forbidden him to go out during the day, as boys are being forced into conscription everywhere.
Ugwu is again the pickiest member of the household. He is upset by the disruption of his ordered life – Odenigbo and Olanna are now no better off than he is, but this shift in social status causes Ugwu anxiety instead of comfort.
Odenigbo and Olanna have guests in the living room, and they discuss how “saboteurs” cost Biafra its territories in the West. Special Julius says the “vandals” have looted everything there and raped the women, and Ugwu shudders at the thought of Anulika or Nnesinachi beneath a “dirty sun-blackened Hausa soldier.” He doesn’t know what has happened to his family.
Ugwu knows about forced conscription now – soldiers kidnapping men and making them join the army under the threat of death – but he still considers the Biafran army to be great and heroic. A kind of racist hatred has now infected the Biafran mindset. Ugwu’s thoughts are a cruel foreshadowing.
One day Olanna says that the school where she has been teaching has been turned into a refugee camp. Olanna says she will start holding classes in her yard, and she asks if Ugwu will teach a class too. Ugwu asks if she thinks the vandals are in Opi, but she sharply assures him that it is too small of a village, so the Nigerians would ignore it.
Olanna’s new confidence continues to show itself as she sets up a makeshift “school.” The school she was teaching at was one of the last to be bombed or turned into a refugee camp, so she was even luckier than most.
One day a black Mercedes-Benz drives up to the house and Professor Ezeka (the old dinner-party guest from Nsukka) gets out. He is now the Director for Mobilization. Neither Odenigbo nor Olanna are home, so Ezeka leaves a note and goes. Eberechi, the neighbor girl whom Ugwu has been admiring, asks him about Ezeka and seems impressed that a “Big Man” was visiting Ugwu’s house.
Professor Ezeka was a fastidious, pretentious guest at Odenigbo’s old gatherings. This is now another character to return in a different capacity during the war. The corruption and randomness of wartime politics causes some people to prosper and others to suffer.
Ugwu is nervous talking to Eberechi, and he agrees to work on the school roof with her later. Olanna returns and is amused by the pretentious note Ezeka left her. Ugwu goes off to work on the roof, and he greets Eberechi there. They talk easily, and Ugwu is excited by her company and friendliness. They work together disguising the school roof with palm fronds so it won’t be a target for air raids. Ugwu looks at all the refugees now living in the school, and is repulsed by their horrible living conditions.
Ugwu finally starts having a relationship with a girl that is something other than sexual, and he is surprised by how easy it can be when he treats Eberechi like a real person. Odenigbo, Olanna, and Ugwu are all technically refugees, but they still have the privilege of some money and of having powerful friends, so they can escape the camps.
One of the refugees declares that his town fell because of saboteurs, and he says that anyone who can’t speak Igbo should not be trusted. Some young boys play at war nearby, while a shell-shocked soldier with one arm wanders about. Eberechi says that her brother is in the army. Then she and Ugwu part ways.
The fear of “saboteurs” becomes a paranoia and hatred of non-Igbo Biafrans. The Igbo start to fall into the same mistakes that the Hausa did, responding to injustice with more injustice.
Days later Ugwu sets up benches for the class he is supposed to teach. Olanna tells him he will teach mathematics, civics, and to speak perfect English and Igbo. One woman brings her child to the “school” and is insulted that a houseboy is teaching, so she takes her daughter away. Other women bring gifts for Olanna. Mrs. Muokelu is teaching a class too, though Ugwu starts to suspect that she knows very little.
Olanna is determined to make a difference, and to make Biafran patriotism about education instead of ethnic hatred. The woman who rejects Ugwu as a teacher is clearly still clinging to a social hierarchy that has collapsed in the war.
Two weeks later Mrs. Muokelu decides to cross enemy lines to trade, as she has lots of people to feed and there are no real markets on the Biafran side. Many people have been doing this. Ugwu takes over her class while she is away. Sometimes Eberechi watches him teach, and Ugwu starts slipping her some of the food that Odenigbo brings home. Ugwu now feels totally comfortable with her, and Eberechi tells him how her parents offered her as a “gift” to a visiting army officer.
Mrs. Muokelu casually crosses enemy lines to trade, which shows that Biafra no longer even has enough food for people with money, and also foreshadows Kianene’s later plight. Ugwu starts to feel real, sincere feelings for Eberechi that are more love than lust. Yet women are still traded by their families to make connections or secure wealth.
Ugwu is angry that this happened, and he imagines having sex with Eberechi, and how he will be different and more respectful than the army officer. He tries to remember some sexual positions he found in a book Odenigbo had in Nsukka. Ugwu then gets sad that there are so few books in their current home.
Ugwu still has his teenage lust, but he now wants to be respectful and loving. This is a tragic contrast to his future actions as a soldier.
One morning the radio announces that Tanzania has recognized Biafra as a real country, and everyone is overjoyed. Odenigbo says that other countries want to do so as well, but “America is the stumbling block” stopping them. Ugwu finds Eberechi and tells her the good news, and she pinches his neck, as is her habit lately. He looks at her and not only lusts after her but also realizes he loves her. Ugwu tries to tell her that he loves her, but he can’t.
The only nations that ended up recognizing Biafra were Tanzania, Gabon, Haiti, Côte d’Ivoire, and Zambia. Other countries (like France) provided some arms and food, but didn’t give the official recognition that Biafra so desperately needed. There is again an echo here, as the failure of nations to recognize Biafra is reminiscent of Ugwu’s inability to state his love and Richard’s earlier inability to propose to Kainene.
Then an army truck drives up and a soldier asks for Eberechi. He says that Major Nwogu is calling for her, and Eberechi excitedly goes to get ready. The soldier accuses Ugwu of idleness, but Ugwu says he is a teacher and is sponsored by the Director of Mobilization. The soldier mocks him but leaves him alone, and then takes Eberechi away.
The combined idolization and corruption of the Biafran soldiers has sinister consequences, as they can basically act with impunity and people will forgive them because they are fighting for “the cause.”
Ugwu is heartbroken and depressed, and when Eberechi comes to see him that night his jealousy causes him physical pain. Eberechi talks about Major Nwogu, and she says she told him Ugwu was her brother, so he won’t be conscripted. Ugwu can hardly talk to her, and he leaves.
Eberechi’s seeming betrayal is never really clarified, but it comes at the worst possible time for Ugwu – just as he was about to tell her that he loved her.
Ugwu starts ignoring Eberechi, and he gets angry when she asks him what’s wrong. Eventually they stop talking altogether. Ugwu decides to tell Olanna what happened with Eberechi, but when he goes inside to do it Olanna is in shock – Odenigbo’s mother has been shot in Abba. Even though he had disliked her, Ugwu still starts to cry and he wonders if his own mother is alive.
Even living in constant fear and danger, most of the characters still experience deep grief for each loss of the war. This is another way that Adichie reminds us that every casualty in a war or genocide is a tragedy, and even abrasive characters like Mama cause great grief in their passing.
Odenigbo comes home and goes into his room with Olanna. Ugwu cooks Baby’s food, and then Olanna comes out and yells at him for using the kerosene stove, even though she had earlier asked him to. She then sits down and says that Odenigbo won’t speak to her. Ugwu wants to comfort her, but can’t bring himself to touch her. Ugwu offers his sympathies to Odenigbo, who acts brisk and distracted.
Ugwu has felt protective and paternal about Odenigbo and Olanna, and the crisis of war has made him into practically a member of their family, but Ugwu has still never physically touched or discussed personal matters with his “masters.” They are all on the same level now, but Ugwu is still comforted by the idea that they are somehow above him.
The next day Odenigbo leaves early to try and find his mother’s body, even though it is in occupied territory. Olanna begs him not to go, but he rushes off. Meanwhile a group of people walk by with machetes, saying they are going to “root out the infiltrators.” Night falls and Odenigbo still hasn’t come back, and Olanna starts to despair.
Odenigbo clearly had a lot of confused feelings about his mother, as he seemed to dislike and scorn her when she was alive, but now he is made unreasonable with guilty grief when she dies. In their paranoia and starvation the Biafrans are now acting just like their enemies.